Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia — and has directed senior federal prosecutors to explore at least some of the matters and report back to him and his top deputy, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post.
The revelation came in a response by the Justice Department to an inquiry from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who in July and again in September called for Sessions to appoint a second special counsel to investigate concerns he had related to the 2016 election and its aftermath.
The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for the second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.
In response, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote that Sessions had “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters,” and that those prosecutors would “report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
Trump began the day with another Twitter meltdown, attacking the Special Counsel’s investigation and then railing against Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton.
Gillibrand “would do anything for” campaign contributions? Referring to Hillary as “Crooked,” and what’s the meaning of “USED?”
Senator Gillibrand responded:
About 90 minutes later, Trump tweeted his usual lying attack on Doug Jones and once again endorsed a man who sexually abused young women and wants to return the U.S. to the days of slavery.
This is how degraded the U.S. presidency is in 2017.
I first saw Trump’s tweets when I turned on MSNBC at about 8:30. It amazed to see Mika Brzezinski’s response. She even told men on the panel to stop interrupting her, and interrupted Joe Scarborough. Watch her rants at MSNBC. (You have to sit through remarks from other people on the panel to get all of what Mika had to say).
Tonight we’ll find out whether Mitch McConnell is going to have to deal with Roy Moore representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Some Republicans must be hoping that somehow Democrat Doug Jones can win. No one really knows what is going to happen. The polls are all over the place. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?
What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however. There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.
Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar Group, JMC Analytics and Polling, Gravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.
But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.1
These differences are significant, according to Silver, because automated polls cannot call cell phones and may have less representative samples because so many people just hang up on them.
Last night a heartbroken Alabama father spoke outside Roy Moore’s final rally before the election. The Washington Post reports:
Perhaps it was the man’s strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign’s final night, condemning the Republican candidate’s past comments lambasting homosexuality.
Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too, had harbored some of the same anti-gay feelings.
Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.
And here’s an energized Doug Jones voter speaking this morning:
Interesting tweets this morning from former Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene:
Here’s the link Alene responded to:
A couple of weird things happened during Moore’s closing argument.
New York Magazine: Roy Moore’s Wife: We’re Not Anti-Semitic, ‘One of Our Attorneys Is a Jew’
Roy Moore’s stance on Jewish people probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of reasons not to vote for the Alabama Senate candidate. Yet on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife, Kayla Moore, attempted to shoot down one of the lesser-known allegations against her husband.
“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said Monday night while introducing her husband at a rally in Midland City, Alabama.
“I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said, gesturing to members of the media.
“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.
“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”
Um . . . okay . . .
Another speaker “joked” about how he and Roy Moore “accidentally” ended up in a brothel full of underage girls in Vietnam. Think Progress:
One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle, it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.”
Moore and Staehle agreed. According to Staehle, they didn’t expect there was anything untoward going on at the “private club” because “there were legitimate private clubs” in Vietnam. The third man drove them to the club in his Jeep.
Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel. The third man, Staehle suggested, essentially tricked them. “I could tell you what I saw but I don’t want to,” Staehle said mischievously.
“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.
They asked the third man to leave with them but he didn’t want to. So Staehle and Moore took his Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage. The man returned to base the next morning on the back of a motorcycle, Staehle said with a grin.
Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan must be so proud.
Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, the “president’s” men are plotting against Robert Mueller.
Mike Allen at Axios: Trump lawyers want second special counsel appointed now.
President Trump’s legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.
The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.
More at the link.
At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky asks: Will the Senate Still Protect Robert Mueller From Donald Trump’s Ax?
Remember the first round of gossip about whether President Trump would fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, back during the summer? Republican senators were quick to say what a grave error this would be. Susan Collins said in June it would be “an extraordinarily unwise move” back. In July, Lindsey Graham said that “any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.”
Most of them chimed in along similar lines. Consequently we were all assured: Yes, maybe they’ve been in the tank for Trump up to now, but surely they would never tolerate that. That is the moment when they’d say enough.
Well. We may find out about that very soon.
People keep saying “we’re close to a crisis.” No we’re not. We’re in it. We have a president who already obstructed justice on national television…..
A former national security adviser copped a felony plea. Three former campaign officials are under indictment. This has never happened in the first year of a modern presidency. Probably any presidency. And that’s just the legal stuff. Then there are all the lies. Obama spied on Trump (this one still has legs among the creatures of the black-ops lagoons of the far right). Trump has no Russia ties. Hillary sold our plutonium to Putin.
And finally, there’s the madness, which is slightly different from lies. The current madness is that Russia is great and can do no wrong, while the FBI is suddenly a subversive and un-American organization. And Robert Mueller is a partisan, pro-Clinton, Never-Trump pawn of the liberal order….
We have never been here. Richard Nixon and his henchmen subverted the law. They did not attempt to subvert reality itself. Nixon did not go around saying that in fact it was George McGovern who belonged in prison. A news network did not exist to scream on a daily basis that McGovern should face indictment, peddling false “scandals” about him. In the summer and fall of 1973, before Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, influential congressional Republicans and prominent former congressional Republicans did not go around saying that there wasn’t one honest investigator on Cox’s staff or that Cox was corrupt.
Please read the rest at the link.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?
The snow has finally begun falling here, and now they say it will continue all night and into tomorrow. We expect around 6-8 inches. That still may not be as bad as what happened down where JJ lives in Georgia and other parts of the South. The LA Times reports: Snowmen in Alabama? Sledding in Mississippi? From Texas to Georgia, snow blankets the South.
Snow blanketed a vast swath of the Deep South on Friday, triggering a flurry of winter weather warnings that closed businesses and schools, canceled hundreds of flights and caused traffic gridlock. It also unleashed a flurry of snowman construction and sledding in places more accustomed to sunshine than snow.
The storm dropped a rare coating of snow as far south as Brownsville, Texas — near the border of Mexico — up through southern Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the southern Appalachians.
“This is an unusual event — to see snow falling this early in the season all the way from Texas and the Gulf Coast region to Georgia,” said Laura Pagano, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta/Peachtree City office. “It has happened before, but not often.”
More than 200,000 customers across the region lost power as snow downed branches and power lines.
Since I can’t go out, I plan to escape into a good book. I finished reading Luke Harding’s excellent Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win, and I’ve begun reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser.
Fraser is a brilliant writer, and so far the book is fascinating. She adds context to the sentimental version of Wilder’s life portrayed in the “Little House” books. Of course in many ways it’s a tragic story of the horrendous treatment of Native Americans as well as the hardships suffered by poor people like the Ingalls family who were lured west by promised of free or cheap land. Anyway, I’m glad to have a good book to help me escape from our dreadful current reality.
As the mainstream media continues to demonstrate the tremendous progress the Mueller investigation has been making, the Trump state media made up of Fox News, Breitbart, and other right wing outlets has turned up the heat with their fake news.
Please read this excellent piece by Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation Is in Mortal Danger. Chait opens by describing the process by which the GOP first claims to be shocked by bad behavior (e.g. the Access Hollywood tape), but within begins denying and finally excusing that same behavior. We’ve seen this again and again, and now it’s happening with Roy Moore. Here’s the gist of Chait’s argument:
The next step in the sequence is almost insultingly obvious. Trump is preparing to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 election.
The administration and its allied media organs, especially those owned by Rupert Murdoch, have spent months floating a series of rationales, of varying degrees of implausibility, for why a deeply respected Republican law-enforcement veteran is disqualified to lead the inquiry: He is friends with James Comey, who is biased because Trump fired him; Comey is biased because he pursued leads turned up in Christopher Steele’s investigation, which was financed by Democrats; Mueller has failed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s marginal-to-nonexistent role in a uranium sale.
The newest pseudo-scandal fixates on the role of Peter Strzok, an FBI official who helped tweak the language Comey employed in his statement condemning Clinton’s email carelessness and has also worked for Mueller.
His alleged crime is a series of text messages criticizing Trump. Mueller removed Strzok from his team, but that is not enough for Trump’s supporters, who are seizing on Strzok’s role as a pretext to discredit and remove Mueller, too. The notion that a law-enforcement official should be disqualified for privately expressing partisan views is a novel one, and certainly did not trouble Republicans last year, when Rudy Giuliani was boasting on television about his network of friendly agents. Yet in the conservative media, Mueller and Comey have assumed fiendish personae of almost Clintonian proportions.
It’s happening, folks. Yesterday we learned that Hope Hicks was interviewed by Mueller’s team all day Thursday and Friday. Hicks knows everything that has happened. There is no way Trump is going to sit still while she either tells the truth or may get caught in a lie and have to cooperate with Mueller. The investigation is getting closer and closer to Trump and his family.
The New York Times: F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives.
F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.
The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers….
After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.
The meetings with Ms. Hicks, what the F.B.I. calls a “defensive briefing,” went beyond the standard security advice that senior White House officials routinely receive upon taking office. Defensive briefings are intended to warn government officials about specific concerns or risks.
Meanwhile, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Justice Department has announced “investigations” into fake scandals like Planned Parenthood supposedly selling fetal body parts and the Uranium One non-scandal. And the GOP Congress is going to turn the sexual harassment scandal into a Democratic problem. The Democrats pushed Al Franken out without due process for minor accusations that may have been orchestrated, and now more Democrats are going to be revealed as abusers so the public will forget about Trump and Moore.
The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call.
Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked.
Hastings has called Packer’s charges “ludicrous” and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.
“Until this evening, I had not seen the settlement agreement between the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) and Ms. Packer,” the congressman said in a statement Friday night. “This matter was handled solely by the Senate Chief Counsel for Employment. At no time was I consulted, nor did I know until after the fact that such a settlement was made.”
Hastings said that the lawsuit that Packer filed against him and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee were ultimately dismissed.
“I am outraged that any taxpayer dollars were needlessly paid to Ms. Packer,” he said.
Will another member of the Black Caucus be forced out now?
Sarah Kendzior issued a stark waning this morning in response to this tweet:
Here’s a Trump scandal; will it gain any traction? The New York Times: Uranium firm urged Trump officials to shrink Bears Ears National Monument.
A uranium company launched a concerted lobbying campaign to scale back Bears Ears National Monument, saying such action would give it easier access to the area’s uranium deposits and help it operate a nearby processing mill, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.
“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.
In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.”
There is soooo much news today. I’ll have to add some links in the comment thread, but I’ll end this post with the latest NYT gossipy insider report on Trump’s defensive maneuvers: Inside Trumps Hour-by-Hour Battle for Self-Preservation.
Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.
Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in bedclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.
As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.
For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.
Read more about the madman in the White House at the NYT link.
What stories are you following today?
Republicans are celebrating their tax cut “victory” this morning, but the fight isn’t over yet. The bill still has to be reconciled with the House version and then voted on again by the House and Senate. I have to admit I’m pretty depressed about it, so this post will largely be a link dump.
In a truly wild and dizzying Friday night and Saturday morning in Washington, Senate Republicans committed collective political suicide by passing a deeply detested tax bill they were still writingseemingly moments before they jammed it through on a party-line vote with no hearings and no meaningful input from a public that hasn’t even seen the text of the legislation.
As dawn broke Friday over the undrained swamp, it looked like the tax legislation was still in trouble, with Republican senators Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Susan Collins (Maine) all wavering. And as of Friday night, the text of this bill, which will restructure the entire American tax system and its economy, had not yet been released to the public, leaving Democratic senators and outside analysts guessing as to which radioactive provisions would be in it, which would be left out, and exactly where various tax levels would be set. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted a photo Friday evening of amendments that would be voted on shortly and that she had to obtain from lobbyists rather than her colleagues across the aisle. The absurdity was almost unspeakable.
As the day wound down, Senate holdouts, especially those who were lionized by the left as principled heroes during July’s failed ObamaCare vote, had fallen in line and said they would vote to slash taxes on corporations, trustafarians, and hedge fund managers while raising them on poor, working class, and middle class Americans. Together these titans of high-minded values said they were ok with their colleagues’ plan to peel a bunch of hundred dollar bills off of America’s dwindling wad of national cash and stuff them directly into the pockets of their billionaire bankrollers.
Regular order? On Wednesday, John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was fine sending this diabolical, 479-page Dybbuk through the Senate even though no one in the chamber had time to read it even once. Democratic pleas to at least postpone the vote until Monday so that our national leaders might actually skim the legislation were ignored. Protecting Medicaid for vulnerable Alaskans? When it came time to screw the poor, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was totally cool with it as long as she could trash the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil drilling in return. Collins, who was wavering Thursday, voted for the bill in the end, all but giving the finger to the Mainers who gave her those airport standing ovations after she stopped TrumpCare. Flake got on board when the White House made some meaningless promise to him that he would be part of any “conversation” about a DACA resolution later this year. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only final holdout.
At the end of the day, Republicans revealed that their entire caucus is bereft of dignity, shame, honor, and any commitment to a single thing any of them have ever said in public about how laws should be made in the United States.
Read it and weep.
There were a smattering of last-minute changes tucked into the nearly 500-page bill, but the core of it is quite simple: a permanent tax cut for corporations combined with much smaller, and temporary, benefits for everyone else. Over the next decade, the $1.4 trillion tax cut would disproportionately reward the wealthiest Americans while piling on the national debt—which in turn will likely be used by Republicans as a justification for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.The House, which already passed its own tax bill last month, and the Senate are expected to work out the differences between their bills in conference meetings. Then each chamber would vote again, and send the final product to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. Trump hopes to sign what he has called his “big, beautiful Christmas present” to the American people by the end of the year.
Before the individual cuts expire in 2026—ending the bill’s most charitable years—the top 1 percent would receive slightly more of the tax cut than the bottom 60 percent of Americans combined. Without the individual tax cut, the top 1 percent would get start getting 61 percent of the benefits. And at that point, the vast majority of middle-class taxpayers would receive essentially nothing, or end up paying higher taxes….
Republicans say they’ll eventually extend those individual cuts. But there is good reason to doubt that. The United States will be facing unprecedented debt levels when it comes time to renew the cuts. The annual deficit would be $1.4 trillion in 2025, up from about $700 billion today. The Senate bill asks Americans to trust that a future Congress, comprised of different members, will continue to ignore deficits.
Supposedly the bill includes a lot of completely nonsensical policy changes, including defining life as beginning at conception. We already know that the bill basically repeals Obamacare and throws 13 million people off health insurance. It also cuts Medicare, and the Republicans will use the inevitable budget deficits to push for cuts in Social Security and more cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.
The Washington Post: GOP eyes post-tax-cut changes to welfare, Medicare and Social Security.
High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs. Last month, President Trump said welfare reform will “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.”
As Republicans advocate spending cuts, they have frequently cited a need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.
“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week.While whipping votes for a GOP tax bill on Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.
“We’re spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Hatch said. “Now, let’s just be honest about it: We’re in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don’t help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don’t help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”
Hatch and his buddies want to “help” the poor and elderly by letting them die in the streets. Or maybe they’d decide that the right to life ends at birth.
The latest CBO score was released just before the vote, and it predicts the same results as the previous one. The Hill reports: CBO: Senate tax bill increases deficit by $1.4 trillion.
The Senate GOP tax plan will increase the deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over a decade, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The CBO score comes as senators are already voting on amendments to the legislation and are expected to pass the bill in the early morning hours of Saturday.
The legislation, according to CBO, would have the largest deficits between the 2019 fiscal year and the 2022 fiscal year.
The finding comes as GOP senators have largely ignored warnings that their tax plan would increase the deficit. Republicans argue that economic growth will more than make up for any increases to the national debt.
It could be a lot worse than that. What domestic or foreign students will be able to earn doctorates in the U.S. if they have to pay taxes on the tuition that Universities waive in return for grad student labor? Corporations will continue ship jobs overseas and channel their profits to their shareholders. This bill is likely to throw our economy into another tailspin. I’ll leave it up to Dakinikat to discuss that.
The Washington Post lists some of the disagreements between the House and Senate versions of the bill that will have to be resolved: Here are 7 differences Republicans must resolve between their tax bills. They include the ACA individual mandate, the estate tax, the expiration of individual tax cuts, the child tax credit, the mortgage interest deduction, the new tax brackets, and the timing of the corporate tax cuts. Of course it’s possible Ryan could decide to try to get the House to pass the Senate version as is. We’ll have to wait and see.
The New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist.
With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.
The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.
Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.
Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.
Read the rest at the link. I’m sure more details about the tax scam will come out over the weekend. Meanwhile, if you live in a red state, please let your Senators and Representatives know how enraged you are.
What else is happening? What stories are you following today?
The media is finally waking up to the fact that the “president” of the U.S. is not just a pathological liar, not just a sociopath and a malignant narcissist–he is actually suffering from a serious thought disorder with delusions.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: New Reports Suggest Trump Might Not Be a Liar at All, But Truly Delusional.
The Washington Post and New York Times have accounts from insiders suggesting Trump habitually insists upon the impossible in private. He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell. He still questions the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birthplace, despite the birth certificate. He insists voter fraud may have denied him a popular-vote triumph. He tells people Robert Mueller will wrap up his investigation, with a total vindication of the president, by the end of the year.
He questions whether the Access Hollywood tape, on which he was recorded boasting of sexual assault, is even him. (Both the Post and the Times report Trump repeatedly has denied the validity of the tape in private, “stunning his advisers,” as the Times puts it.)
It is of course entirely possible that Trump is lying to everybody, including his own staff. But the lies in these articles do not always fit into any pattern of rational self-aggrandizement. Trump tells senators or his aides the Access Hollywood tape is not him, but they don’t believe him. He has no reason to bring up the birther fabrication in private.
His apparent belief that Mueller will complete his sprawling investigation by the end of the year is not only pointless but self-defeating — rather than prepare allies for a long defense, he is preparing them for a fantastical scenario. (It is also further evidence that, when Mueller fails to vindicate him by the new year, Trump will lash out wildly, firing him, Jeff Sessions, or others.)
If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental-health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us have expected.
Gee, no kidding. It was obvious during the campaign that Trump was nuts, to use a technical term. Now people in the media are waking up to the reality of the situation when it may well be too late. BTW, a person can be a liar and delusional at the same time.
Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: Trump veers past guardrails, feeling impervious to the uproar he causes.
President Trump this week disseminated on social media three inflammatory and unverified anti-Muslim videos, took glee in the firing of a news anchor for sexual harassment allegations despite facing more than a dozen of his own accusers and used a ceremony honoring Navajo war heroes to malign a senator with a derogatory nickname, “Pocahontas.”
Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes.
If there are consequences for his actions, Trump does not seem to feel their burden personally. The Republican tax bill appears on track for passage, putting the president on the cusp of his first major legislative achievement. Trump himself remains the highest-profile man accused of sexual improprieties to keep his job with no repercussions.
Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.
Rucker and Parker quote from Trump’s speech in Missouri last night:
In Missouri, he was talking about taxes, but he might as well been describing his mind-set.
“Hey, look, I’m president,” Trump said. “I don’t care. I don’t care anymore.”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on Thursday that people close to President Trump told him during the campaign that Trump has “early stages of dementia.”
During MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Scarborough said Trump is “completely detached from reality.”
“You have somebody inside the White House that the New York Daily News says is mentally unfit,” Scarborough said.
“That people close to him say is mentally unfit, that people close to him during the campaign told me had early stages of dementia.”
Scarborough said the country is closer to war on the Korean Peninsula than most Americans know.
“We heard this months ago, that we are going to have a ground war in Korea, they believe that inside the White House for a very long time,” Scarborough said.
“If this is not what the 25th Amendment was drafted for,” he added, referring to the amendment that covers presidential succession and the response to a president with disabilities.
Hey Joe, why didn’t you say this during the campaign??
Last night during his speech in Missouri, Trump gave a clear demonstration of how jumbled his thought process is. Someone put the words “rocket fuel” on the teleprompter and he veered off into an attack on Kim Jong Un.
“But what it means in simple terms is he’s losing his grip on reality,” Schwartz told MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber” when asked about Trump’s reported suggestion that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape may not be real.
“His reality testing is really poor and I believe that’s exactly what’s going on,” Schwartz added.
Schwartz described “a dramatic change” in Trump from when he co-authored the book with him to how the president speaks now.
“He is more limited in his vocabulary. He is further from as I say- this connection to what is factual and real. He is more impulsive. He is more reactive. This is a guy in deep trouble,” said Schwartz.
He also said that many employees at the White House are “hostages to a cult leader.”
“When you watch Sarah Huckabee Sanders right now, you really feel as if you’re watching somebody who is being brainwashed, or has been brainwashed,” Schwartz said, referencing the White House press secretary.
Mike Allen at Axios: The White House expects Trump to get even more outrageous.
Today I’m grateful for Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation. In the old days before the 2016 election, Thanksgiving was a super-slow news day. Now everything is different. There is more Russia news than I can cover, the media is having a feeding frenzy over sexual harassment and sexual “misconduct,” and the “president” is lecturing Americans about how great he thinks he is.
He also told the troops they are doing a good job because of him.
In a Thanksgiving morning video-conference call with servicemembers overseas, President Donald Trump expressed his gratitude for their work, took credit for allowing them to do it and sought to assure them that they’ll find prosperity when they return.
“We’re doing well at home. The economy is doing really great. When you come back, you are going to see with the jobs and companies coming back into our country and the stock market just hit a record high,” Trump said, reading from a prepared script at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 17 years. So you’re fighting for something real, you’re fighting for something good.”
The remarks were unusually political for an American president’s Thanksgiving address to troops but perfectly in line with Trump’s penchant for making such statements to nonpolitical public servants.
Before he told the troops how great he is, Trump publicly shamed his press pool.
That’s why I’m so grateful for the Russia investigation. I can’t wait until this monster gets impeached or resigns in disgrace. I’d give anything to see him go to prison.
Remember when we had a president who cared about people?
Sorry I started out with the monster-in-chief; here’s a heartwarming story to get the bad taste out of your mouth. NY Post: How a homeless man’s selfless act changed his life.
A homeless man used the last $20 in his pocket to buy gas for a stranded motorist because he feared for her safety — and what she did next changed his life.
Kate McClure, 27, and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, 38, made it their mission to get ex-Marine and firefighter Johnny Bobbit Jr. back on his feet with a fundraising campaign that has raised more than $65,000.
Bobbit came to McClure’s aid last month, when she ran out of gas on I-95 at night while driving to meet a pal in Philadelphia.
As she walked toward the nearest gas station, he told her to get back in her car and lock the doors.
Bobbit then spent his last $20 to buy her gas so she would get home safe.
“He came back and I was almost in shock,” McClure told The Post.
McClure and her boyfriend started to try to help Bobbit, and eventually decided to put up a GoFundMe page for him. The goal was $10,000. They wanted to get enough for the first and last month on an apartment and a reliable vehicle. As of this morning, they have raised $206,955. The total keeps going up every time I refresh the page.
Bobbit, who hails from North Carolina, has been homeless for a year and half, and began living under a bridge after he was robbed in a shelter.
“He came back from his service in the marines and for some reason it didn’t work out with his wife and it hit him hard,” D’Amico said. “He left North Carolina and started traveling around the United States.”
Bobbit wants to work at Amazon — and a recruiter from the tech giant has already reached out, saying she wants to help him get a spot.
“He’s a genuinely good guy so I think he deserves everything that’s coming to him,” McClure said.
I’m fortunate that I don’t have to worry about any Trump fans being at my brother’s place for Thanksgiving dinner today; but if you do here is some advice from Joe Berkowitz at GQ: It’s Your Civic Duty to Ruin Thanksgiving by Bringing Up Trump.
Trump has spent the entire year performing one long, clumsy touchdown dance atop the wreckage of America’s former norms and values. He turned the presidency into a haberdashery. He made nepotism a core hiring strategy. He attacked a civil rights leader during Martin Luther King Day. He politicized a Boy Scout jamboree. Any parents still riding the Trump Train at this point have thereby signaled that nothing is sacred. It is time to follow their example. They can’t stand idly by while President Deals tramples every other American tradition and yet somehow expect that Thanksgiving will be normal too. If every other moment of this year is going to be drastically out of whack, nobody should get to pretend that everything is normal for one meal just because that’s what the pilgrims would have done.
Please go read this hilarious piece and the suggestions on how to make Thanksgiving a living hell for your Trump-supporting relatives.
Here’s the latest on Trump and Russia:
Vanity Fair Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak after Comey Was Canned. You need to read the whole thing. We all know about Trump’s betrayal of Israeli intelligence when he invited top Russians in the Oval Office last May and kept the U.S. media out. Now Vanity Fair reveals the details of the secret mission that Trump blabbed to the Russians about.
On a dark night at the tail end of last winter, just a month after the inauguration of the new American president, an evening when only a sickle moon hung in the Levantine sky, two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters flew low across Jordan and then, staying under the radar, veered north toward the twisting ribbon of shadows that was the Euphrates River. On board, waiting with a professional stillness as they headed into the hostile heart of Syria, were Sayeret Matkal commandos, the Jewish state’s elite counterterrorism force, along with members of the technological unit of the Mossad, its foreign-espionage agency. Their target: an ISIS cell that was racing to get a deadly new weapon thought to have been devised by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the Saudi national who was al-Qaeda’s master bombmaker in Yemen.
It was a covert mission whose details were reconstructed for Vanity Fair by two experts on Israeli intelligence operations. It would lead to the unnerving discovery that ISIS terrorists were working on transforming laptop computers into bombs that could pass undetected through airport security. U.S. Homeland Security officials—quickly followed by British authorities—banned passengers traveling from an accusatory list of Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptops and other portable electronic devices larger than a cell phone on arriving planes. It would not be until four tense months later, as foreign airports began to comply with new, stringent American security directives, that the ban would be lifted on an airport-by-airport basis.
In the secretive corridors of the American espionage community, the Israeli mission was praised by knowledgeable officials as a casebook example of a valued ally’s hard-won field intelligence being put to good, arguably even lifesaving, use.
Yet this triumph would be overshadowed by an astonishing conversation in the Oval Office in May, when an intemperate President Trump revealed details about the classified mission to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and Sergey I. Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Along with the tempest of far-reaching geopolitical consequences that raged as a result of the president’s disclosure, fresh blood was spilled in his long-running combative relationship with the nation’s clandestine services. Israel—as well as America’s other allies—would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment as it wondered, not for the first time, what was going on with Trump and Russia. (In fact, Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election.) In the hand-wringing aftermath, the entire event became, as is so often the case with spy stories, a tale about trust and betrayal.
It is still unknown what happened to the Israeli agent who was embedded with ISIS. Did Trump reveal the intelligence deliberately or was it just arrogance and stupidity? I’m beginning to think he is a conscious Russian asset.
Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker: A Russian Journalist Explains How the Kremlin Instructed Him to Cover the 2016 Election.
On a recent Saturday in November, Dimitri Skorobutov, a former editor at Russia’s largest state media company, sat in a bar in Maastricht, a college town in the Netherlands, with journalists from around the world and discussed covering Donald Trump. Skorobutov opened a packet of documents and explained that they were planning guides from Russian state media that showed how the Kremlin wanted the 2016 U.S. Presidential election covered.
Among the journalists, Skorobutov’s perspective was unique. Aside from Fox News, no network worked as hard as Rossiya, as Russian state TV is called, to boost Donald Trump and denigrate Hillary Clinton. Skorobutov, who was fired from his job after a dispute with a colleague that ended in a physical altercation, went public with his story of how Russian state media works, in June, talking to the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Radio Liberty. The organizers of the Maastricht conference learned of his story and invited him to speak. He flipped through his pages and pointed to the coverage guide for August 9, 2016, when Clinton stumbled while climbing some steps. The Kremlin wanted to play the story up big.
Skorobutov started working in Russian state media companies when he was seventeen years old, and has worked in print, radio, and TV. During the 2016 campaign, he was an editor for “Vesti,” a daily news program. Skorobutov described it as a mid-level position, with four layers of bureaucrats separating him and the Kremlin. His supervisor was a news director who, he said, got his job after making a laudatory documentary about Putin.
A little of what Skorobutov described about the 2016 coverage by Russian state media:
During the 2016 election, the directions from the Kremlin were less subtle than usual. “Me and my colleagues, we were given a clear instruction: to show Donald Trump in a positive way, and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in a negative way,” he said in his speech. In a later interview, he explained to me how the instructions were relayed. “Sometimes it was a phone call. Sometimes it was a conversation,” he told me. “If Donald Trump has a successful press conference, we broadcast it for sure. And if something goes wrong with Clinton, we underline it.” [….]
“There was even a slogan among Russian political élite,” he said. “ ‘Trump is our president.’ And, when he won the elections, on 9th November, 2016, Russian Parliament or State Duma even applauded him and arranged a champagne party celebrating the victory of Donald Trump.” That night, Skorobutov and his colleagues played clips of the party on the news.
Read the rest at The New Yorker.
So have courage. Bob Mueller is on the job and we still have hope that we can rid ourselves of the Trump monster. I’m grateful for this blog and for all you Sky Dancers. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m sick and tired of the media’s coverage of “sexual assault.” I was already tired of hearing about it, but this whole thing with Al Franken is just plain ridiculous. How many days now has it been the top story on cable TV? It feels like a month. What he did was stupid and disgusting, but I’ve heard enough. Franken apologized and wrote a personal letter to the “victim.” She said she accepts his apology.
Should Franken resign? No fucking way! Should we spend interminable days relitigating the charges against Bill Clinton from 20 years ago? No thanks. What Clinton did was disgusting too, but he went through years of investigations and was impeached for Christ’s sake. Enough!
Until Donald Trump resigns, the media needs to lay off Franken. Unless a bunch more women come forward to accuse him, it doesn’t look like he’s predator on the scale of Moore or Trump. We know that numerous other men in the House and Senate are guilty of sexual harassment. How about doing some investigative reporting to find out the names of these men and publish them?
We live in a culture in which women are beaten, raped and murdered on a daily basis. Let the media focus on that for a week. But it won’t happen. They prefer to use the rampant violence against women in this country as entertainment. And this 24/7 coverage of sexual harassment is happening for the same reason–entertainment and ratings. After the past couple of weeks, I’m feeling like I want to resign from the human race.
Meanwhile, the abuser-in-chief is stealing money hand over fist from taxpayers and trying to “reform” the tax code to give himself billions more.
Did you watch Richard Engel’s special on Trump’s Panama tower? If not, I highly recommend you check it out. Some interesting reading on just one place where Trump is reaping the rewards of his massive corruption. Some recommended reading on the subject:
Global Witness: Narco-A-Lago: Money Laundering at the Trump Ocean Club Panama. An excerpt:
The warning signs were there from the outset. The Trump Ocean Club, one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals to date, was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a period when Panama was known as one of the best places in the world to launder money. Whole neighborhoods in Panama City were taken over by organized crime groups, and luxury developments were built with the purpose of serving as money laundering vehicles.
Moreover, investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely. Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere. In most countries, regulation is notoriously lax in the real estate sector. Cash payments are subject to hardly any scrutiny, giving opportunistic and unprincipled developers free rein to accept dirty money.
In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy – and possibly dirty – money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010. Trump received a percentage of the financing he helped secure, and a cut on the sale of every unit at the development.
He and his family have made millions of dollars more from management fees and likely continue to profit from the Trump Ocean Club. Eager for the project’s success, Trump and his children have participated directly in marketing, management, and even project design. According to broker Ventura Nogueira, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended at least 10 meetings with him and project developer Roger Khafif.
A large number of those involved with the Trump Ocean Club in its early phase were Russian and Eastern European citizens or diaspora members. In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura Nogueira said that 50 percent of his buyers were Russian, and that some had “questionable backgrounds.” He added that he found out later that some were part of the Russian Mafia.
Two more articles:
Lots of news has been breaking on the Russia investigation. For example, The AP is just out with a new scoop: Moscow meeting in June 2017 under scrutiny in Trump probe.
Earlier this year, a Russian-American lobbyist and another businessman discussed over coffee in Moscow an extraordinary meeting they had attended 12 months earlier: a gathering at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s son, his son-in-law and his then-campaign chairman.
The Moscow meeting in June, which has not been previously disclosed, is now under scrutiny by investigators who want to know why the two men met in the first place and whether there was some effort to get their stories straight about the Trump Tower meeting just weeks before it would become public, The Associated Press has learned.
Congressional investigators have questioned both men — lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Ike Kaveladze, a business associate of a Moscow-based developer and former Trump business partner — and obtained their text message communications, people familiar with the investigation told the AP.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team also has been investigating the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which occurred weeks after Trump had clinched the Republican presidential nomination and which his son attended with the expectation of receiving damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. A grand jury has already heard testimony about the meeting, which in addition to Donald Trump Jr., also included Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and his then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The focus of the congressional investigators was confirmed by three people familiar with their probe, including two who demanded anonymity to discuss the sensitive inquiry.
One of those people said Akhmetshin told congressional investigators that he asked for the Moscow meeting with Kaveladze to argue that they should go public with the details of the Trump Tower meeting before they were caught up in a media maelstrom. Akhmetshin also told the investigators that Kaveladze said people in Trump’s orbit were asking about Akhmetshin’s background, the person said.
How much more evidence do we need to know that Russia has basically taken over our goverment?We’re living in a dystopian nightmare, as Dakinikat wrote yesterday. The world is laughing at us because Trump is rapidly turning the U.S. into a tinpot dictatorship. I’d like to just curl up in my apartment and escape into books, and I may just do that this weekend.
One way to escape the present and perhaps put our situation in perspective is to read dystopian novels, which I love. Louise Erdrich has just published one, and Elle has an interview of her by Margaret Atwood: Inside the Dystopian Visions of Margaret Atwood and Louise Erdrich.
Louise Erdrich, member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, author of more than 20 novels, most of them revolving around an Ojibwe community in North Dakota, won the National Book Award for The Round House (2012), a crime thriller, and was a Pulitzer Finalist for The Plague of Doves (2009), a murder mystery. But when a galley of her new novel, Future Home of the Living God (HarperCollins, out now), came across ELLE’s desk, it seemed to us that Erdrich had gone where she’d never quite gone before.
She’s written a novel—a wonderful, creepy, dystopian novel—in which women become prized, and quickly enslaved, for their ability to produce healthy babies. The pregnant protagonist of the novel, Cedar, an Ojibwe adoptee, is on the run, evading the white male evangelical government that wants to sever her from life as she knows it and use her body to produce healthy babies….
Yes, it sounds familiar, doesn’t it—unless you’ve been living under a rock and missed
The Handmaid’s Tale cleaning up at the Emmys, or the fact that the book by the great Margaret Atwood has been on Amazon’s list of its top-20 most-read books for months.
So who better to interview Erdrich about her new novel than Atwood? Lo and behold: They agreed! Over the summer, the two writers—one in Toronto, one in Minnesota—amid jaunts to the Arctic and Winnipeg, engaged in a cross-border digital interview about the novel, their prophetic fears, politics, climate change, and why we idealize Canada.
Click on the link to read the interview. More dystopian fiction suggestions:
Literary Hub: 30 Dystopian Novels by and About Women.
ShortList: The 20 best dystopian novels.
Another way to escape is to read about earlier times. Here’s an interesting book review I came across yesterday at The New Republic: Little House, Small Government. How Laura Ingalls Wilder’s frontier vision of freedom and survival lives on in Trump’s America.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the “Little House on the Prairie” books, lived a good two decades of her 90 years in a covered wagon going west. Only in late middle age did she become the author of the most successful series for children ever written about the settling of the American frontier. In the stories these books tell, the Ingalls family embodies that extraordinary hunger for pioneering that, through the second half of the nineteenth century, sent a few million men, women, and children out into the prairies and mountains of the mid- and far West to farm, raise cattle, mine for silver, pan for gold. One and all, they went in search of a life free from the restraints of the socialized world, to a place where survival depended on the exercise of one’s own wit and strength and backbreaking labor.
Ultimately, that same drive to be alone with the wilderness got converted to a founding myth of individualism, out of which emerged an ideology that visualized freedom from government as an equivalent of freedom itself. The descendants of that myth are among us still. If Laura Ingalls Wilder were alive today she would be a member of the Tea Party. She would almost certainly have voted for Donald Trump, many of whose followers yet believe that he will restore to them the dubious glory of the frontier America that Wilder so passionately celebrated in her books.
Caroline Fraser’s Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder is an impressive piece of social history that uses the events of Wilder’s life to track, socially and politically, the development of the American continent and its people. The frontier, by definition, has always been a place just beyond the point where land meets sky. In America that longing to move beyond the horizon, which is common to all cultures, became not only synonymous with an idea of the national character, but a vital ingredient in the American brand of democracy. The historian Frederick Jackson Turner ardently believed, in fact, that “that restless, nervous energy, that dominant individualism” attributed to the frontier was the major influence on American democracy’s development.
What the people in the covered wagons did not grasp was that to a large extent they were pawns in the hands of political and business interests—especially those of the railroads—that needed to see ground broken across the entire continent. The pioneers never understood the hucksterism behind the “go west, young man” rhetoric that urged them to go where none had gone before, with no hard knowledge of what actually lay before them. All the pioneers knew—in their fantasies, that is—was that just over the horizon lay adventure, opportunity, possible wealth, and certain freedom.
As a kid, I read every one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series that began with Little House in the Big Woods and ended with These Happy Golden Years. Oh how I’d love to go back that innocent time in my life for one day. But then, maybe it wasn’t as great as I remember it. The reviewer includes another book about the American frontier that isn’t as joyful as Wilder’s nostalgic tales:
Agnes Smedley’s autobiographical novel Daughter of Earth, published in 1929, gave its readers an altogether different look at the same set of experiences. “I write of the joys and sorrows of the lowly,” she begins, “of those who die … exhausted by poverty, victims of wealth and power…. For we are of the earth and our struggle is the struggle of earth.” Smedley’s masterful work of realism concentrates on everything that Laura Ingalls Wilder either ignores, leaves out, or flatly denies. In this book, capitalism makes a mockery of the illusion of freedom-just-ahead—the promise that sent millions traveling west during those same years when the Ingallses were loading and unloading their covered wagon and then loading it once again.
Smedley was born in 1892 in Missouri into a family of farmers who labored long days in the field and never seemed to get ahead. The father, like Charles Ingalls, was handsome and restless. A lover of music and tall tales, he was possessed of “the soul and imagination of a vagabond,” Smedley wrote. The open road called to him. The mother, unlike Caroline Ingalls, desperately did not want to leave the farm but the father wore her down and at last they packed up and headed out. “And from that moment,” Smedley writes, “our roots were torn from the soil and we began a life of wandering, searching for success and happiness and riches that always lay just beyond—where we were not. Only since then have I heard the old saying ‘Where I am not, there is happiness.’”
The father did not want to homestead; rather, he thought to join the army of miners, loggers, and teamsters who were rushing west right alongside the settlers. Missouri, Colorado—on the Smedleys moved, from one mining camp to another, always working like dogs, always being cheated of their wages, always just barely surviving. “Existence meant only working, sleeping, eating … and breeding…. A book was a curiosity … a newspaper was a rarity; to read was a recreation of the rich.”
The family joined the exploited underclass that got the country built. Men like Smedley’s father, with all his brute strength and hunger of spirit, never realized that they were forever up against the exploitation of the owners of the mines and the railroads, who had the government in their pockets. Smedley himself proved an ignorant and frightened man, helpless before a world he could not fathom, much less define himself against. In time he loses his taste for the songs and the stories that sustained him; he becomes a bully, starts to drink, and beats his wife. Of her mother, old at 30, Smedley writes, “her tears … they embittered my life!” It is above all the hardness of the narrator’s voice that makes Daughter of Earth so unlike anything Wilder could have imagined. For Smedley, the ideology of American individualism proved a bitter punishment, for Wilder the fulfillment of what she took to be a God-given promise.
My grandparents and great grandparents helped settle the Dakota territory. I’d love to read those books. I already have a stack of things I want to read though. There’s never enough time.
I know this is a weird post. I think Trump is slowly driving me insane. What stories are you following today? Any book recommendations?
Once again, there is so much news breaking that it’s difficult to decide what to focus on. So I’ll begin with what’s happening right now, and take it from there.
Right now Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Guess what? He doesn’t remember the meeting where he is pictured with George Papadopoulos and at which Papadopoulos discussed setting up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That’s really strange, because just a short time ago, he claimed to remember objecting to the proposal.
Vanity Fair on Nov. 2: Sessions Suddenly Remembers Russia Conversation He Said Didn’t Happen.
Back in June, there was some cause for concern that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was having memory problems. When questioned from multiple angles during multiple appearances before Congressional investigators about the Trump campaign‘s relationship to Russia, Sessions‘s consistent refrain was: “I don’t recall.”
He gave an equally evasive response when Minnesota Senator Al Franken specifically asked whether surrogates from the Trump campaign had communicated with Russians during the 2016 election in October. “I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee under oath. (He made similar statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee.)
Now, however, Sessions has reportedly changed his tune. Citing a source familiar with Sessions’s thinking, NBC News reported on Thursday that the attorney general—who served as a top Trump surrogate and headed the then-presidential hopeful’s national security team—does in fact recall rejecting George Papadopoulos’s offer to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin, after the Republican candidate stopped short of ruling out the idea.
“The March 31 comments by this Papadopoulos person did not leave a lasting impression,” the source told NBC News. “As far as Sessions seemed to be concerned, when he shut down this idea of Papadopoulos engaging with Russia, that was the end of it and he moved the meeting along to other issues.” The source added that Papadopoulos was viewed by those in attendance “as someone who didn’t have a lot of credibility.”
The Washington Post, among other news outlets is reporting that Jeff Sessions is thinking about appointing a second special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton.
In today’s hearing, Sessions said he can’t confirm or deny any investigation involving the DOJ. It’s important to note that during his confirmation hearing, Sessions pledged to recuse himself from any matters involving Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times has published some direct quotes from Sessions’ testimony this morning: Jeff Sessions Displays Unsteady Recall on Trump-Russia Matters.
Mr. Sessions denied that he lied in October when he testified that he knew of nobody in the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign. “And I don’t believe it happened,” he said.
Court records later revealed that Mr. Sessions led a March 2016 meeting in which George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide, discussed his Russian ties and suggested setting up a meeting between Mr. Trump. and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president.
“I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports,” Mr. Sessions said.
Mr. Sessions testified Tuesday that was still hazy on the details about what Mr. Papadopoulos had proposed.
But on one matter, he said his memory is clear: he said he shot down Mr. Papadopoulos’ idea of a Trump-Putin meet-up. And he said he told Mr. Papadopoulos that he was not authorized to represent the campaign in such discussions.
To sum up: Mr. Sessions said he could not remember much about Russian influence on the Trump campaign, except when he could block such influence.
In other news, Don Jr. is in more trouble. You’ve probably read the article by Julia Ioffe in The Atlantic: The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks.
Just before the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2016, at the height of last year’s presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a private direct message to Donald Trump Jr., the Republican nominee’s oldest son and campaign surrogate. “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?” (The site, which has since become a joint project with Mother Jones, was founded by Rob Glaser, a tech entrepreneur, and was funded by Progress for USA Political Action Committee.)
The next morning, about 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded to WikiLeaks. “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” he wrote on September 21, 2016. “Thanks.”
The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017.
Read the rest at the link if you haven’t already. Julian Assange, who controls the Wikileaks Twitter account has responded by claiming he was just “Trying to ‘Beguile’ Donald Trump Jr. Into Leaking.”
There’s another hearing going on simultaneously with the Sessions hearing on Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons. Quartz: Watch live: Should Trump have control of US nuclear weapons?
Today (Nov. 14), expert witnesses will testify before senators on US national “authority and process” over its nuclear arsenal. The hearing follows a tense few months, in which North Korea has continued nuclear testing, and Donald Trump has responded with belligerent improvisational statements, threatening “fire and fury” and warning that a military response was “locked and loaded.”
Could the US president start a nuclear war with North Korea? That’s what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing aims to figure out. The hearing will be broadcast on public-service network C-SPAN at 10am US Eastern Time. You can watch it online here.
There’s also the ongoing Roy Moore scandal. Some links to check out if you haven’t already:
CBS News: New accuser steps forward in Roy Moore case.
AL.com also posted an editorial yesterday: Our view: Roy Moore grossly unfit for office.
Roy Moore simply cannot be a U.S. Senator. Even if his party and many of its adherents still think it possible, it is unthinkable — for his state, and his country.
Last week, four women described Moore’s unseemly taste for dating high school girls when he was a single man in his 30s. Another described what can only be seen as a sexual assault on her when she was 14. In a radio interview last week, Moore himself suggested that he may have dated teenage women during his 30s, though he vehemently denied the claims made by these women.
Today, even as those women face disgusting attacks on their motives and credibility, a fifth brave Alabama woman stepped forward and described how when she was 16, Moore violently sexually assaulted her in his car. She said she felt it to be an attempted rape, and that it ended with her bruised from either falling from or being pushed from the car, with Moore warning her he was a powerful man and that no one would believe her if she told anyone.
The seriousness of these incidents cannot be overstated. They should not be parsed with talk of statutes of limitations or whether proof exists. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is a consideration for the courtroom, not the ballot box. When choosing our representative before the rest of the world, character matters….
We believe these women.
As a news organization, we have independently investigated as many of these claims as possible and have found no reason to doubt the accounts outlined in the Washington Post. If anything, the stories we’ve heard in Etowah County have only further corroborated them.
In our view, Moore has already revealed himself as grossly unfit to be a U.S. Senator before these revelations.
At The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg suggests that past accusations against Bill Clinton should be reevaluated in the light of recent revelations about powerful men harassing and assaulting women: I Believe Juanita. The title is explosive, but Goldberg’s only reason for believing Juanita Broaddrick’s accusations is that they are similar to recent allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
Of the Clinton accusers, the one who haunts me is Broaddrick. The story she tells about Clinton recalls those we’ve heard about Weinstein. She claimed they had plans to meet in a hotel coffee shop, but at the last minute he asked to come up to her hotel room instead, where he raped her. Five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened. It’s true that she denied the rape in an affidavit to Paula Jones’s lawyers, before changing her story when talking to federal investigators. But her explanation, that she didn’t want to go public but couldn’t lie to the F.B.I., makes sense. Put simply, I believe her.
What to do with that belief? Contemplating this history is excruciating in part because of the way it has been weaponized against Hillary Clinton. Broaddrick sees her as complicit, interpreting something Hillary once said to her at a political event — “I want you to know that we appreciate everything you do for Bill” — as a veiled threat instead of a rote greeting. This seems wildly unlikely; Broaddrick was decades away from going public, and most reporting about the Clinton marriage shows Bill going to great lengths to hide his betrayals. Nevertheless, one of the sick ironies of the 2016 campaign was that it was Hillary who had to pay the political price for Bill’s misdeeds, as they were trotted out to deflect attention from Trump’s well-documented transgressions.
And now they’re being trotted out again. It’s fair to conclude that because of Broaddrick’s allegations, Bill Clinton no longer has a place in decent society. But we should remember that it’s not simply partisan tribalism that led liberals to doubt her. Discerning what might be true in a blizzard of lies isn’t easy, and the people who spread those lies don’t get to claim the moral high ground. We should err on the side of believing women, but sometimes, that belief will be used against us.
To say that Bill Clinton “no longer has a place in decent society” is a bit much at this point, IMHO. I don’t know much about Broaddrick’s claims; but apparently these old accusations are going to be recycled. Will Jeff Sessions appoint another special prosecutor?
So much news happening–what will today bring? What stories are you following?